Larry Buckley, interim president of San Bernardino Valley College, was the third candidate interviewed for the job of superintendent/president at Monterey Peninsula College.
By the end of the forum Wednesday, there should have been no doubt what one of his main strengths is.
Buckley, 53, is a historian. A skilled raconteur.
He had a story to tell not just about his biography, but in answer to most questions.
He left Hawaii in 1993 after living there for more than a decade. The Hokkaido earthquake and the ensuing tsunami devastated the Japanese economy and tourism in the Hawaiian islands. At the time, Buckley was on contract, his job and many others wiped out.
He began visiting MPC in 1995, he said, and in 2000, after becoming dean of instruction at Lake Tahoe Community College, he wrote in his journal where he would go someday.
With Lake Tahoe, "I predicted it," he said, opening his brown bound journal to the appropriate page. "My next prediction: I'll become a president of the Monterey Peninsula College.
"I want to be here," he said. "I can finish my career and retire from here — not before I'm 54. This is a special place. You know that, I know that. I decided the fates have lined up and I'm what the college needs right now."
Earlier this year, Buckley was appointed interim president of San Bernardino Valley College, but he has not been "an interim caretaker," he said.
The times won't become easier any time soon, if his prediction becomes a reality: Proposition 30 will not pass, he said, given that support for the tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot has been dropping.
"For this college, that's a $1.9 million midyear cut," he said. "Your electric bill is just under $1 million a year. You (disconnect) electricity for two years, and still you won't be able to meet the costs of what this midyear cut is going to take."
Thanks to the college's leadership, MPC is in much better shape than others, Buckley said.
"I'm not getting married (without being) certain there's a dowry in place," he said, provoking laughter. "Dr. (Doug) Garrison and the trustees had a very conservative financial approach. You've done a lot of the heavy lifting."
To approach the dramatic cuts that would be needed in the worst-case scenario, Buckley said he would look at the district's revenues and expenditures. Eighty-six percent of expenses are linked to personnel salaries and benefits, while 92 percent of revenues are tied to student enrollment. If that formula changed — through grants and foundation contributions — the college would have more money for more programs.
To explain his vision on how college administrators should function, Buckley told the story of his first management meeting at San Bernardino Valley College. He showed them a 15-minute movie about Ernest Shackleton and his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The expedition failed, but there were no casualties in the three-year frigid adventure. His expedition, and his methods to ensure he was surrounded by the best men for the job, are used by a Harvard business school professor to teach "Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance."
"That's me," Buckley said. "My approach is to pull around me skills that I don't have. I don't know anything about student services and I'm not going to pretend I do. I need to bring that team together to cross on that boat. That's how I operate."
Given the changes in the economic landscape, and the recently approved Student Success Act, which will implement changes to ensure students obtain degrees or certificates, community colleges will look very different five years from now. To describe the changes, he quoted again from history, pulling ideas from Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address.
"This is the time to be honest, to be candid and truthful about what we really are," he said. "The challenges are not going to be easy, there's no magic bullet. This is not a crisis that's going to pass. We know somebody who has his house underwater, a family member who's lost his job. This is not another crisis manufactured by the legislature of the bureaucracy. We have to have a new deal. The community colleges have to redefine themselves."
Claudia Meléndez Salinas can be reached at 753-6755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
·What: MPC candidate forum for Walter Tribley
·When: 11 a.m. to noon Thursday
·Where: MPC Lecture Forum 101
If you go